Notify guidelines by July 15 to make films accessible to hearing visually impaired HC to Centre

New Delhi, Mar 29 (PTI) The Delhi High Court has asked the Centre to notify by July 15 the guidelines to make films accessible to persons who are hearing and visually impaired.
     Justice Prathiba M Singh said accessibility was enforceable as a legal right and even private parties have to take "reasonable accommodation measures" to enable greater accessibility for the hearing and visually impaired persons.
     The court observed that the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting has framed the “Draft Guidelines of Accessibility Standards in the Public Exhibition of Feature Films in Cinema Theatres for Persons with Hearing and Visual Impairment”, and was in the process of finalising the same.
     “The guidelines shall now be finalised by the MIB and shall be notified on or before 15th July, 2024. It is made clear that the said guidelines shall make the provision of accessibility features mandatory and provide a reasonable period for compliance by all stakeholders, in an expeditious manner,” the court ordered recently.
     “A hearing or visually impaired person, may get easy physical access to a film theatre but may not be able to enjoy the film at all, if measures to make it enjoyable are not taken by the other stakeholders, including producers, theatre managers, OTT platforms, etc,” the order said.
     The court stated that non-provision of accessibility features would constitute an offence under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act and the State has a positive obligation to ensure that all reasonably possible steps are taken to ensure access to them.
     The central government said it “fully intended” to notify the guidelines as soon as possible and its counsel prayed for time up until August 1 to notify as the responses of all the stakeholders had to be considered in detail.
     It informed that the guidelines would be applicable for those feature films that are certified by the Central Board of Film Certification for public exhibition in
cinema halls for commercial purposes.
     The court said that MIB shall nominate one Under Secretary as the designated officer for receipt of any representations on inclusion of accessibility features in films
     The representations, if received, shall be responded to within three working days and attempt shall be made that even in the interregnum, while the guidelines are to be notified, such features are included in feature films, including on OTT platforms, it stated.
    “Accessibility is crucial and is enforceable as a legal right. Even private parties have to ensure that ‘reasonable accommodation’ measures are taken in order to
enable greater accessibility for the hearing and visually impaired persons,” the court said.
     The court's order came on a petition by four persons suffering from visual and hearing impairments who sought directions to make Shah Rukh Khan-starrer "Pathaan", accessible to them.
     The four petitioners -- a law student, two lawyers and a disability rights activist -- have contended that under the Rights of Persons with Disabilities Act (PWD Act), the government has to take measures to ensure access to content to those suffering from disabilities. While three of them are visually impaired, the fourth one is hearing impaired.
     The petitioners were represented by lawyer Rahul Bajaj.
     Earlier, the court had asked the Centre to put in public domain the draft guidelines to make the experience of watching films friendly for those with disabilities like hearing and visual impairments, and process them for due approvals upon receiving comments from stakeholders.

(This story has not been edited by THE WEEK and is auto-generated from PTI)